The Breakfast Table


Good Morning, Wendy:

Did you read the story on the front page of the NY Times “Arts” page, about author Pat (“Prince of Tides“) Conroy and his struggles with the Margaret Mitchell estate over a second sequel to Gone With the Wind which he, Conroy, would write? Apparently the Mitchell people are distressed about Conroy’s demands for complete editorial freedom, including to right to kill off Scarlett if he so chooses. Mr. Conroy feels he is “not a writer for hire, but a serious artist,” a claim that seems to me undermined by the nature of the assignment: after all, he could write a sequel to Buddenbrooks or A la recherche du temps perdu .

Here’s my thought for you, Wendy: it must be awfully hard coming up with brand new stories every time you write one of your plays. Keeping in mind the Conroy affair, wouldn’t it be easier for you to do a sequel? For some play that already has great characters, like Gone With the Wind, so you wouldn’t have to make them up? For instance, what about a sequel to Sophocles’ Oedipus Cycle in which Oedipus receives a cornea transplant, goes home to Thebes, and opens a successful Greek restaurant, the “House of Atreus”? Or if you’re looking for something more contemporary, what about a sequel of A Streetcar Named Desire in which Blanche gets out of the asylum and, after working out her problems with Stanley and Stella in group therapy, makes a lot of money from opening a chain of pie shops and is able to re-purchase Belle Reve? (Okay, so I took the pie shop part from “Mildred Pierce.”

Do give this some thought. Now, as for today’s news: the most important story today (NY Times, page D17) is about a man who murdered his wife in a manner somewhat reminiscent of the Gucci affair we discussed yesterday: after assaulting her with an aluminum baseball bat and putting her in the hospital, he “made numerous inquiries on the Internet about how cyanide worked and how it could be obtained.” Having obtained some, he entered the hospital disguised as a janitor and administered it to his injured wife, causing her to die. As with Senora Gucci, who publicly said she wanted to kill her husband and later, after doing so, publicly said she was glad he was dead, one has to question how these people got into the murderers’ union. Perhaps most criminals are stupid; or perhaps only the stupid ones get caught.

But I know you’re itching for me to get to your main topic of the day, the election of former professional wrestler Jesse “the Body” Ventura as governor of Minnesota. The continuation of the Times’ story (B10) interprets the event as part of a “national backlash against politicians,” although all it suggests to me is that “the Body” is a better politician than his two colorless opponents (apparently he wasn’t all that great a wrestler, no better than Reagan was an actor). Apparently he ran a good campaign, mastered the issues, and won over the voters. I like his motto (developed during a stint as a high school football coach): “What is pain? Pain is good!” And Wendy, if we are facing difficult challenges, like improving our nations’ schools or losing weight, pain (i.e., some short-term sacrifice in pursuit of a long-term good) is good, indisputably. But this is not a message that one often hears from politicians these days. Right on, Jesse.

Elsewhere on the elections front, the consensus among analysts and politicians is that impeachment is now off the front burner. The election was a national referendum on Clinton, and the voters like what they see (shouldn’t this have already been fairly obvious to anyone who can read opinion polls?). This makes me happy, not because I think Clinton is such a great guy, but because to drag the thing out for another two years of hearings, taped phone calls, and semen-stained dresses will drive me to a depression so terminal as to be beyond the reach of Prozac. I guess that shadowy entity “the American people” agrees with me on this one. Read William Safire’s column for a smart, accurate, conservative take on what the Democratic gains really mean.

Finally, you must read the review of Rosemary Mahoney’s book A Likely Story: One Summer With Lillian Hellman (Times, E11), and then quickly get signed confidentiality agreements from everybody who works for you, including Rocky and Antonia.